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SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

Fate of the Jedi: Outcast by Aaron Allston

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Fate of the Jedi: Outcast by Aaron Allston
Ballantine Del Rey, 2009, 370pp

As might be obvious by now, I’m a bit of a media tie-in junkie. The idea of an expanded universe fascinates me: an original story is great, but building out the universe a story takes place in really piques my interest. Maybe it’s my inner RPG geek that never got (and never gets) to express itself coming out, but I love reading books set in a shared universe.

One of my favorite shared universes that I don’t get much opportunity to get back to on a regular basis is the Star Wars universe. There are a lot of sentimental reasons (it was the first movie I remember my dad taking me and my brother to as a ‘guys night out’ when I was seven), but I also love what’s been done in the Star Wars universe, especially in the comics which are able to capture not just the story but also the visual feel of Star Wars.

But I don’t get to read Star Wars novels often enough, so I’ve been a little out of touch. I’ve only read parts of the New Jedi Order sequence and not a single novel in the Legacy of the Force series. I contemplated reading those first, but at the rate I get to read them, it would take me forever to catch up, so I decided simply to jump in to the most recent series, Fate of the Jedi, which takes place about 40 years after the Battle of Yavin (or ABY for the uber geeks). The Galactic Alliance is still reeling from the rise and fall of Darth Caedus (as told in Legacy of the Force). All the different factions are trying to take power while the Jedi are doing what Jedi do: trying to keep the peace.

However, the novel opens with the Jedi Grand Master himself, Luke Skywalker, being arrested for his part in the rise of Darth Caedus. Luke, the accusation goes, was complicit in Darth Caedus’s rise because he did not see it coming. As the Jedi Grand Master, he should have known that one of his Jedi was becoming corrupt and prevented it.

Yes, those are obvious trumped-up charges, but the Chief of State, Natasi Daala, is both milking and causing public resentment against the Jedi to further her precarious political position. Luke quickly senses this and comes to a plea agreement to prevent the Jedi from being permanently removed as a peace-keeping force: he will go into exile for 10 years, forbidden from returning to Coruscant or coming anywhere near a Jedi temple or outpost. Luke takes this, in no small part because he wants to find out what truly caused Darth Caedus to go to the Dark Side and thus clear the name of the Jedi.

Luke sets out on his mission/exile with his son Ben and quickly gets into adventures on his quest. Meanwhile, back on Coruscant, young Jedi are succumbing to some strange malady that causes them to believe everyone is an impostor and thus go on rampages. The Jedi have to work hard to keep their public reputation intact in the face of members going bezerk.

And if that weren’t enough, Han and Leia get a plea from Lando Calrissian whose operation on Kessel faces destruction as the tectonically stable planet experiences mysterious quakes.

If you’ve been out of touch for a while (as I have), then there’s a little bit of catching up to do, but it’s not so insurmountable as to make the book unreadable. Indeed, it’s incredibly well written.

All in all, a good beginning to a new series. But only a beginning: there is a lot that is unresolved to be investigated in later novels. But even so, author Aaron Allston does an excellent job making this installment compelling. A recurring problem with Star Wars novels is that the characters can be quite two-dimensional since the authors are often limited in what they can do, but by being so far in the future, most of Allston’s cast are not the familiar faces from the movies, and so he has the freedom to build personalities as needed. Indeed, the weak points of the novel are where the familiar characters come on stage. But when they’re off stage, Allston’s writing shines.

Although I get busy with lots of review books to work through, I’m going to try to make room for the further installments in this series, first to get caught up, and then to follow it as it moves on.

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